What is Grief?
Grief is a natural response to loss. When we grieve, we may experience physical, emotional, mental, or social/spiritual reactions. At times, these reactions may feel overwhelming. Everyone experiences grief differently, and it is important to remember there is no right or wrong way to grieve!
There are some common reactions to grief after the loss of a loved one. Highlighted are some natural grief reactions you may be facing in your grief:
Grief Myths & Facts
In addition to natural grief responses, many people struggle with expectations, both our own and from others that we should be “doing better” or “feel better in time”. There are many myths in society about how grief affects us. Here are some myths/facts about grief by James E. Miller:
Grief and mourning are sings of you being out of control, especially if they last more than a month or two.
Our society is uncomfortable with death, dying and grief. You are a reminder of events and feelings that others are afraid of experiencing themselves. The fact is, expressing your grief outside yourself, giving it expression, is necessary if you want to move forward in your grief journey. Grief lasts as long as it lasts. It is different for everyone.
Grief and mourning proceed in predictable and orderly stages
While there are commonalities in the bereavement process, each person grieves in their own way, Your grief and your bereavement journey will be unique to you because of the many variables involved. u
Move away from grief, not toward your grief.
The only way to “get through” grief is to grieve. Attempts to side-step or avoid one’s grief work only results in prolonging the process and setting oneself up for other problems like health, behavioral, spiritual, and/or social issues. Your grief will find a way to express itself.
Following the death of your loved one, the goal should be to “get over” your grief.
Grief is not something we “get over”, a term that suggests we and our life will go back to “normal”. A significant loss changes us forever. Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a man who has worked with people in mourning for many years, talks rather about “reconciliation”. Reconciliation, he says is what occurs as the person works to integrate the new reality of moving forward in life without the physical presence of the person who has died.
Tears are a sign of weakness
Crying, as a part of mourning, generates a feeling of helplessness in those around us. Research actually suggests that suppressing tears may increase susceptibility to stress-related disorders. Tears are a part of how the body rids itself of “waste” just like sweating and exhaling. Tears relieve tension and stress.
Bereavement Program at Elara Caring
Bereavement services are a fundamental part of the hospice program. Bereavement is a time of mourning, and grief is the natural process we experience when dealing with the death of a loved one. At Elara Caring, we have a Bereavement Coordinator in each of our service areas dedicated to companioning those in their journey through grief. These coordinators consist of social workers, counselors and chaplains who strive to ensure those who are grieving feel supported.
- Private grief counseling in your home or your local Elara Caring branch
- Regular support calls to assist clients in coping with grief
- Quarterly bereavement mailings designed to provide information and education on the natural grief process
- Community resource referrals to provide additional support to assist those who would benefit
- Grief support groups and workshops
- Annual Memorial Services
Any family member, friend or neighbor whose loved one died with Elara Caring Hospice services are able to access bereavement support at no cost for 13 months following their loved one’s death. Our Bereavement Team also offers support, referrals and programs to the overall community at no charge.
The Bereavement Coordinators at Elara Caring recognize how difficult it can be to reach out for help. If you would benefit from bereavement support, or would like to learn more about our program please contact us at 1.800.379.1600.
Special Message for the Bereaved During COVID-19
The Bereavement Department at Elara Caring Hospice recognizes the complex feelings you may be experiencing during the pandemic. Covid-19 influenced the ability of many of you to see loved ones before they died. Many of you were not able to gather for a funeral or memorial service to say goodbye. You will not have opportunities to attend grief support groups with the need for social distancing. That means that you may be experiencing a heightened grief response. Grief is a natural process, but during the Covid-19 pandemic, you may be dealing with the aforementioned stressors. Therefore, the Bereavement Team has put together some information we hope you find useful; things you can do for yourselves to help you through these next days and weeks.
If unable to have a funeral or memorial service due to the need for social distancing at this time, consider developing an online memorial using one of these sites:
On-line memorials can connect out of state family and friends through a guest book, help you heal, and process your grief.
Find an item of your loved ones that has sentimental value, an item that invokes positive feelings and remind you of happy experiences with your loved one. Carry this item with you in a pocket, purse or bag to help keep you connected to your loved one.
Writing down your grief feelings and experiences is a powerful way to process grief. Some prompting questions to get you started: “I remember when…”, “The thing I miss most…”, “I wish I knew…”, “This memory always makes me happy…”, “Today, my grief feels like…”, “My fondest memory of you is….”
There are four levels of self-care- physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual. Focus on incorporating these into your daily routine. Some suggestions include: maintaining contact with family and friends, go for a walk while thinking of positive memories, unplug from news and social media, meditate or pray, practice relaxation breathing by breathing in through your nose, inflate your belly and exhale through your mouth letting air out through stomach and chest, and ASK FOR HELP!
You will have many feelings associated with your grief process that are natural. There is no “right” way to grieve. There are common physical, behavioral, emotional, social, spiritual and mental reactions to loss. Do not be alarmed if you are experiencing multiple things all at once. Give yourself permission to allow yourself to feel what you feel and not put pressure on yourself.
Child & Teen Grief
How to Talk with Grieving Children
Children need reassurance when they are grieving that their physical and emotional needs will be met. Children will look to the trusted adults in their lives to shape their grief experience. Here are some guidelines for you to help the grieving child in your life:
Involving Children and Teens in Funeral or Memorial Service
Parents often wonder if a child should attend a funeral or memorial service of a loved one. The most important factor when making this decision is having an open, honest conversation with your child about what the funeral or memorial service will entail. Here are some guidelines when talking with children about the service:
We’ve collected an extensive list of books, articles, and online resources related to grief, including resources for children and teens.